Photographs and Article by Liset Garcia
The Phantom Regiment hornline gathers around in sections on a overcast day in Akron, Ohio before their second performance of the season. As the euphonium section starts to gather around Kellie Simerly, section leader, the rest of the section seem to hang on her words of encouragement. Close to her stands her brother, Daniel Simerly, a glint of joy and excitement is seen in his eyes as he listens to his sister lead the section.
Both Kellie and Daniel were introduced to the world of Drum Corps by their father. “Back when it was on PBS, we would watch it with him before we even knew what it was,” Kellie recollects back to her first memories of this activity, “he would take us to shows before we comprehended what it was.” As they both grew up in that environment it only seemed logical that they both ended up in band and led into becoming a part of the Drum Corps community.
Watching Kellie pull her euphonium up to attention with such ease, it might be hard to believe that she started off on trumpet and was then asked to switch to euphonium by her middle school band director. She recollects going home that afternoon and her dad having a euphonium waiting for her. Daniel on the other hand had a different introduction to band, “One day I came home from school and my dad had a trombone, he told me I would play it. That’s how I got into band!” Throughout middle school they both even fought to not be in band, it wasn't until later in high school when they both started marching band that they started to fall in love with the activity. They have a younger brother, Seth, that is a french horn player. “He was another one where we all kind of pushed him into playing french horn,” Kellie mentioned. As Daniel started to laugh he said, “We all collectively decided for him!”
When asked what led Kellie to Phantom Regiment she suddenly sat up straighter and her face lit up, “I got the chance to watch them rehearse live in Omaha in 2012. That show, Turnandot, watching them rehearse blew me away. I had never seen a group so focused, so intense, and so intent to be better. I felt their energy from the field all the way up in the stands.”
After their performance that night she remembers how blown away she was. “That day I knew I had to be in the Phantom Regiment,” Kellie spoke as if she were reliving it as she played it back from her memories. Daniel became more immersed in the activity as his sister started her journey in auditions for the 2015 season. “My dad mentioned to me that Kellie had auditioned and got a callback. That’s when it hit me that drum corps was a real thing that even I could do,” Daniel boasted about his sister getting a contract and it made him more intrigued in the idea of him marching with his sister someday. Daniel talked about being at finals warm up for Kellie’s rookie year and not paying much attention to what they were doing until the hornline played Canon, a piece Phantom Regiment performed in their 2003 show Harmonic Journey, “they caught my attention when they played the piece and it blew me away. I realized then that I had to be a part of that hornline too.”
After spending a whole season together in 2017, Daniel mentioned how Kellie was a huge supporter and helper during his rookie year. Daniel went home a week and a half into spring training to graduate and he remembered wanting to stay home at that point. He remembered he had Kellie waiting for him and knew she would push him to be his best while encouraging him. “This was the hardest thing I had done in my entire life and I had no faith in myself but I also knew that my sister was there,” he knew that if he needed anything to get through it Kellie was there to help. Daniel spoke with pride about his sister, “If my sister can do these amazing things, then so can I. She’s been a huge role model to me for a long time.”